Erma Bombeck: A Legacy of Laughter


Erma Bombeck: A Legacy of LaughterAt the height of her popularity, her syndicated column appeared in 900 newspapers, reaching 30 million readers.
Erma Bombeck: A Legacy of Laughter, celebrates one of America's best loved humorists. Recollections from family and friends along with photographs and rare home movies tell the story of her life and career. Phil Donahue, family friend and host of the award-winning talk show "Donahue", narrates. Major funding has been provided by The University of Dayton and Andrews McMeel Universal.

The program will be distributed nationally by American Public Television (APT). Erma Bombeck: A Legacy of Laughter will be seen in over 90% of the nation's television markets, over 250 public television stations across the country will broadcast the documentary.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1927, Erma Fiste developed a love for writing early in life. At the age of 16, while attending Patterson Co-Op High School, Erma talked her way into a job as a copygirl at the Dayton Herald. Determined to attend college, she began working two jobs in order to save enough for books and tuition. Erma's English Professor at the University of Dayton, Brother Tom Price encouraged her to write an article for the school magazine. After reading her piece Brother Tom said three words that would sustain her for the rest of her career: "You can write."

Erma didn't spend all of her time working and studying, she managed to find time to renew her friendship with Bill Bombeck. They began dating seriously after Bill returned from a tour of duty in Korea and were married in 1949.

The Bombeck's settled in suburbia and started a family. Taking care of her home and children was a full time job, but Erma's desire to write soon led her back to work. In 1964 she began writing a column for a weekly publication in Kettering, Ohio. Her reflections on motherhood struck a chord with women everywhere. Soon she received an offer from the Dayton Journal-Herald. Three weeks after her first column appeared in the Journal-Herald, her column was syndicated.

As her popularity grew Erma hit the lecture circuit, wrote a monthly column for Good Housekeeping magazine, appeared twice weekly on Good Morning America, worked tirelessly for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and created a television situation comedy at the same time she continued to write new books and her newspaper column.
In 1996, at the age of 69, Erma Bombeck passed away following kidney transplant surgery.

"Author, lecturer, television producer, ERA supporter, wife and mother - Erma Bombeck was a renaissance woman with a unique perspective on life." As her friend Phil Donahue noted "…of her it certainly must be said, and can be said, without exaggeration, we shall never see her likes again."

Friends, family and colleagues interviewed for Erma Bombeck: A Legacy of Laughter include Norma Born, Erma's secretary; Pat Wynn Brown, author and performer; Bruce Cameron, author, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter; Tim Bete, Director, Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop; Matt Bombeck (Erma’s son); Bill Bombeck, Erma’s widower; Andy Bombeck (Erma’s son); and Betsy Bombeck (Erma’s daughter).

Watch now! »


ThinkTV Originals

The Art Show

Our Ohio

Production FAQ's

Q. Where can I purchase copies of PBS programs?

A. Contact Play PBS 1-800-752-9727 for DVD copies of PBS programs on ThinkTV visit Shop PBS online at

Q. How can I get a copy of a ThinkTV production?

A. Copies of several ThinkTVproductions are available as “Thank You” gifts for our members.   If you are interested in receiving one of these gifts please contact our Member Services department by calling 937-220-1600 or email  If you are interesting in becoming a member of ThinkTV visit the Membership Benefits page on our website, you can sign up to become a member online.

Q. How are ThinkTV productions funded?

A. Local productions can be funded in a couple of ways, through the generous support of a production underwriter and/or a grant from a foundation.  Production underwriters donate money to fund a production and are typically credited at the beginning and end of the program, for example:  This program has been made possible through the generous support of….. We’ve also been fortunate to receive funding for some of our productions through productions grants.  These grants and the foundations that award them also receive recognition at the beginning and end of a program.

Q. Why do the program listings on your Web site and the ones in publications sometimes differ?

A. Occasionally ThinkTV changes its broadcast schedule.  Some printed and electronic material can be dated.  For the most up-to-date listings for all ThinkTV channels visit our online broadcast schedule.